Molly Malone Cook, who died in 2005, was Oliver’s partner for many years, a pioneer gallery owner and photographer. Our World weaves forty-nine of Cook’s photographs and selections from her journals with Oliver’s extended writings, both reminiscence and reflection, in prose and in poetry. The result is an intimate revelation of their lives and art.
Within the art world, Molly Malone Cook made her reputation as an early advocate of photography as an art form; she was a champion of the work of now-famous photographers, including Edward Steichen, Eugene Atget, Berenice Abbott, Minor White, Ansel Adams, Harry Callahan, and W. Eugene Smith. There are famous faces here as well, captured by Cook’s camera, among them Walker Evans, Robert Motherwell and Henry Geldzahler, the first curator of twentieth-century art at the Metropolitan Museum.
Cook and Oliver also lived among writers, and Cook caught several on film, including Lorraine Hansberry and Norman Mailer. Oliver writes of Cook’s work, the people they knew, and the places they visited or lived. The poet’s beautiful text captures not only the vivifying qualities of her partner’s work, but the texture of their shared world. In Mary Oliver’s words, Cook taught the beginner poet “to see, with searching attention and compassion.”
“Mary Oliver ranks among the finest poets the English language has ever produced. Whether she’s describing a caterpillar’s transformation…or describing her own mystical connection to birdsong…she almost always can come up with striking, resonant images.…Oliver observes with great sensitivity, and puts her impressions in verse in a way that few can match…her poetry is rigorous, beautiful, well written, and offers genuine insights into the natural world.”
—Eli Lehrer, The Weekly Standard